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Dust Collectors and the Industries that Benefit Most From Them

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Dust is a common problem experienced by professionals in a variety of industries. Whenever material is cut, regardless whether that material is wood, metal, or even stone, the resulting dust can wreak havoc with machinery. More important, it can cause both short-term and long-term health problems for workers, animals, and the environment.

In terms of machinery and mechanics, fine-particulates resulting from cutting stone can build up within nearby machines, filling them with a fine, silt-like powder that will gum up gears and any moving parts. Because this powder is comprised of tough organic material or stone, the effect on moving parts will be subtractive in that the dust will function like sandpaper. Over time, it will grind and sand and erode a machine’s physical components.

Additionally, depending on the stone’s chemical composition and its ability to conduct electricity, the dust can also store static electricity, potentially short-circuiting circuit boards and other sensitive equipment. To varying degrees, all dust has erosive and electrical conductive properties, so this mechanical problem exists for any machine coming into contact with any type of dust.

In terms of health, heavy dust particles are not as problematic as tiny, lighter-than-air particulates. When breathed, these types of light particles can enter the lungs and work their way into the alveoli, resulting in acute and chronic health problems. Finally, skin problems, ranging from minor irritation to cancer, are also a concern.

Types of industrial dust collectors

The two most common types of industrial dust collector used by industries worldwide are the inertial separator and baghouse collector. However, a third type of industrial dust collector, the cartridge dust collector, is often used by industries combating organic dust.

Inertial Separators

Inertial separators use inertia to separate dust from air. This can be accomplished by centrifugal force, inertial force, or gravity.

Carpentry and woodworking

Whether sawing, routing, or sanding, carpenters and woodworkers create a lot of dust. Dust typically is created in a small shop or warehouse where the cubic air space can range from 400 to 5,000 cubic feet.

For woodworkers, the most commonly used industrial dust collector is the cyclone. Cyclone dust collectors are a type of inertial separator that create a vortex. The resulting centrifugal force helps create negative air pressure, which is channeled via duct work to a vent through which dust-filled air is gathered, filtered, and exhausted.

Regarding health and sanitary concerns, woodworkers often use a cyclone-style collector fitted with a HEPA filter. Unlike standard filters, which often filter 95 percent of dust particles .5 microns or larger, HEPA-certified filters capture 99.97 percent of particles as small as .3 microns in size. Such filtering capability helps prevent small particles from becoming embedded deep within the lungs.

Health and Personal-Care Services

Health services industries use cyclone collectors because they have a small footprint, are quiet, and effective. Additionally, personal care industries such as barbershops and hair stylists use them because they are economical and HEPA certified.

Costs of cyclone dust collectors range from $500 for a 1.5 horsepower (hp) Grizzly collector capable of moving 775 cubic feet of air per minute (CFPM). For larger spaces or volumes of dust, the price can exceed $12,000 for a 15 hp Granulator capable of moving 4,500 cfpm.

Note: not all cyclone dust collectors come with HEPA filters installed. Sometimes, HEPA filters must be retrofitted to the collector.

Fabric filters

Fabric filters, commonly called bag-house dust collectors, can handle higher dust volumes, higher temperatures, and a wider range of dust types and materials. They rely on one or more layers of fabric to filter pollutants from the air.

Metal Manufacturing

Industries that create a lot of metal dust include automobile and transportation manufacturers. Any metal manufacturer, however, even welders, must contend with metal dust. One of the biggest problems they face is that of high-temperature dust that results from grinding or cutting.

Additionally, grinding and welding metal can result in harmful gasses, so the collector must be able to filter both dust and gas. To successfully filter metal dust and gasses, bag-house collectors use permeable, fireproof bags. The effectiveness stems from using multiple layers of canvas or felt bags that result in one of the most effective filtering systems available.

Bag-house collectors begin at approximately $1400 for a 220 volt machine capable of moving 1450 cfpm. Mid-range units can run $12,000 to $20,000, and they can move 10,000 cfpm.


Transportation departments are often involved in cutting asphalt, and they might also routinely jackhammer concrete. Additionally, landscapers cut all types of tile and stonework. Each of these industries benefit from industrial dust collection, and the specific type of dust collection involved with these types of industries is that of silica dust collection.

Granite contains crystalline silica. Sand and quartz also contain it. Stonemasons who work with brick and clay must also contend with silica dust. In general, the risks with silica include minor skin irritations to serious chemical burns from fumed silica. Inhalation leads to silicosis and lung cancer.

For this type of dust, however, a dangerous type that can become widespread throughout an entire building via the air venting system, the collection system often combines a HEPA filter with a suction-style boot that fits over the blade or drill.

Whether a company selects a bag-house collector or an inertial separator, the dust collector must be able to clean a minimum of 50 to 100 cfpm.

Natural Gas Companies

Another industry that deals with stone dust is the natural gas industry. As a company drills and fracks, they generate a lot of dust. Although most dust collection systems are permanent machines installed on site, these types of companies require portable, industrial-strength solutions. Mounted on a skid, these units can be towed.

The primary criteria to be considered when selecting this type of unit is the amount of air it can move. For fracking operations, collection systems require the ability to move 2,500 cfpm to 60,000 cfpm. The average cost for these machines begins at approximately $15,000.

Organic Dust Collection

Different types of industries and the organic dust problems they face include the following.

Farming industries

– blood meal
– grains such as corn cob and husk particles

Food Industries

– flour
– grains and grain meal

Medical industries

– bone cutting
– ash

For these industries, dust collection helps protect against vegetable fiber and the metabolites the fiber contains. Farming companies, however, must also contend with the high temperatures organic grain dust can create. As a result, non-explosive dust-collection units are required. Additionally, microbial agents also have a capacity for health problems. As with companies in the masonry industry, farmers must also contend with silica.

The primary health benefit of organic dust collection system is to reduce a variety of breathing problems.

– asthma
– chronic bronchitis
– bronchial hyper-responsiveness
– wheezing
– coughing

Industries that must contend with organic dust rely heavily on baghouse collectors, but a more recent invention is the cartridge dust collector. Cartridge dust collectors are recognized by OSHA as being capable of keeping organic dust and crystalline silica to levels of five micro-grams per cubic meter of air, a level that is 10 times beneath the current limit allowed by law. To accomplish this, cartridge dust collection units often combine high-efficiency filters with a secondary HEPA filter.

Cost for cartridge dust collectors can range from $6,000 to $12,000 and higher.

The final type of glass–glass dust–is something found in the glass-working industry. Fiberglass manufacturers, for instance, must deal with lighter-than-air glass fiber. Glass manufacturers involved in window making often do what is called “dry-grinding,” which can create enormous amounts of dust.

For filtering glass, cyclone units are not recommended as they are often considered to be a preliminary filtering system to the baghouse-style filters. Whether the glass industry uses a bag-house or a cartridge-style dust collector, it must be fitted with HEPA-certified filters.

Average costs for glass dust collection systems can range from $2,300 for smaller units to $13,000 for larger commercial operations.

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